The Lenovo Tab7 Essential is a new Android tablet with a starting price of just 79 US dollars. For that, we get a 7-inch display, almost vanilla Android 7.0 Nougat and optional LTE. As you might expect at this price point, the performance is kind of weak. But is this tablet good enough for simple tasks? That’s what you will find out in my Lenovo Tab7 Essential review.
By the way, the Lenovo Tab7 Essential is the successor to the Lenovo Tab3 7 Essential that was released two years ago. It is a direct competitor to the cheaper Amazon Fire 7. There is also a Lenovo Tab7 HD with a bit better specifications. In some countries, it’s called Lenovo Tab4 7.
Design & Build Quality
As you might expect at 80 dollars, the build quality of the Lenovo Tab7 Essential is not the best. It features a full plastic body. However, the design did improve compared to the previous version. While the predecessor really felt cheap, this one looks a bit nicer and feels just a bit higher-end. At the same time, it is thinner with 8.8mm and lighter with 254g than the Amazon Fire 7.
On the right side, we get a power button and volume controls. All the way on the top is a micro USB port and a 3.5-millimeter audio jack. On the left side sits a microSD card slot and you can use microSD cards as internal storage. I’ve got the LTE version and, in this case, the nano-SIM slot is located at the same place. By the way, you can use the 4G version to make phone calls and send text messages.
Cameras & Speakers
We get one speaker which is located above the screen. While it’s nice that we get a front-facing speaker, it is just one. So, don’t expect to get any kind of stereo feeling. And the speaker is pretty small, and the audio quality is kind of bad.
It certainly cannot get loud enough to fill a big room. And at maximum volume especially voices sound a bit scratchy. The sound gets better if you turn down the volume a bit and then it’s fine for watching some YouTube. But overall, the speaker is not great at all.
Next to the single speaker, we get a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and the main camera on the back features the same resolution. Again, as you can expect at this price the picture quality is not that great. Don’t expect to take any nice selfies for Instagram. It is still usable for video chats over Skype though.
Let’s take a look at the display of the Lenovo Tab7 Essential. In fact, this is one of the highlights of this tablet. It is a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. That sounds really bad but actually is still usable.
Don’t get me wrong, you certainly will see pixels and every smartphone has a much higher pixel density. However, the pixel density is similar to 10-inch tablets with an HD screen and that is alright if the price is right. And that certainly is the case here.
It is an IPS panel with good viewing angles and good colors. The screen is fully laminated so unlike the new iPad or the 7-inch Amazon Fire, there is no air gap between the IPS panel and the touchscreen. Overall, the screen is noticeably better than the one of the Fire.
One downside is that there does not seem to be any kind of coating to reduce fingerprints. And it is certainly not the brightest screen. It’s bright enough to use comfortably inside but even outside on a cloudy day, it is a bit dark.
Hardware & Performance
Alright, let’s continue with the hardware and performance. This is a major weakness of the Lenovo Tab7 Essential. With the WiFi version, we get a 1.3GHz MediaTek MT8167D quad-core processor and the LTE version features a 1.1GHz MT8735 quad-core chipset. In both cases, we also get 1GB of RAM and an 8GB or 16GB internal storage.
I’ve got the LTE version and as you can see in my benchmark comparison, the performance is not good at all. However, in the benchmarks, it actually is a bit better than the predecessor. As I said, the WiFi version has a different CPU but the performance should be very similar.
In addition to WiFi and optional LTE, the Tab7 Essential also supports Bluetooth and GPS.
I bought the 16GB version of the tablet and if you want to get it, I suggest you get 16GB as well. Out of the box, 6.8GB are used by the system already. Actually, that is not bad at all because tablets from Huawei and Samsung usually use more. However, if you have the 8GB version there is not much room left to install apps.
Well, as you’ve seen in my benchmark comparison, the performance is pretty bad. And it does not get better in my gaming test. Simple games like Banana Kong run fine and I even was able to install and play Asphalt Xtreme at lowest graphics settings. However, you will see occasional lags. I also noticed several times that apps like OneDrive that run in the background crash while playing this game. I guess that happens due to the 1GB of RAM. Into The Dead 2 is kind of playable as well, but only at lowest graphics settings and again with occasional lagging.
Fast Enough For Everyday Use?
Alright, I don’t think anybody expects to get a nice gaming tablet at around 80 dollars. And indeed, the tablet is usable for very simple apps. I was able to read my news feeds in Feedly without any problems and listen to podcasts with other apps.
While YouTube and Netflix are usable too, that is not the case with Chrome. Yes, you can surf around simple websites but as soon as you open several tabs you might have to wait a bit until everything is loaded.
Actually, I had to wait quite often during my review of this tablet. This is not a multitasking device. Even if something is installing in the background from the Play Store, you will notice performance hits fast. In fact, even when switching between two apps you might have to wait a couple of seconds. And yes, even if you just want to go back to the home screen.
So, the performance really is bad. If you own a relatively modern smartphone it is very likely that you will be disappointed by the performance of the Tab7 Essential. As I said, simple apps do run and are usable. However, in my experience, the cheaper Amazon Fire 7 is much better during everyday use.
Software: Android 7.0 Nougat
Let’s get to something more positive and that is the software. The Lenovo Tab7 Essential is running Android 7.0 Nougat. While I don’t think that there will ever be a major software update, I love that we get almost vanilla Android. Unlike its competitors from Amazon, Huawei and Samsung the UI is almost not customized at all and that is great.
We don’t get too many pre-installed apps either. Out of the box, there are the Google apps, Outlook and Skype from Microsoft, as well as a couple of standard apps like a file manager and a radio app. With the LTE version, we get a phone and text messaging app too.
As I said, it pretty much is vanilla Android and it supports all the standard features from Nougat. That includes the split screen view. Again, the performance is not great for multitasking but in theory, you could run two apps side by side.
Inside the Lenovo Tab7 Essential sits a battery with a capacity of 3500mAh. According to Lenovo, that should last up to 20 hours. I’m really not sure how Lenovo is measuring that. That might be possible under certain circumstances. Maybe in airplane mode. However, in my standard battery test, the tablet lasted for 10 hours. I’m looping an HD video at 50 percent brightness and activated WiFi for all my reviews.
Okay, the Tab7 Essential might not last 20 hours but the 10 hours from my battery test are actually very good for such a cheap device. Obviously, the runtime will be lower if you play games and higher if you just read E-Books. It always depends on what you are doing.
Lenovo Tab7 Essential Review: Final Verdict
So, can I recommend the Lenovo Tab7 Essential? Sadly, for most, I cannot. Considering the price, the build quality is good, and the display is fine too. I also like that we get almost vanilla Android and the battery life is great for such a cheap tablet. Its great too that you can use the LTE version to make phone calls and send SMS.
However, the performance is just too bad. Its fine for very simple tasks but that’s it. And even when surfing the web or switching between two apps you might have to wait a couple of seconds. The benchmarks are not even that bad but for everyday use, the tablet is just too slow.
The Lenovo Tab7 Essential might be good for you under certain conditions only. For example, if you really can not or don’t want to spend more money and prefer almost pure Android. Well, let’s take a look at a couple of alternatives.
Lenovo Tab7 Essential Alternatives
The main competitor is the 7-inch Amazon Fire. It does feel noticeably cheaper and the display is not as nice. But in my experience, the performance is much better during everyday use. Not great, but better.
Another alternative is the Amazon Fire HD 8 (review). Depending on where you are from it might cost a bit more. However, the performance is much better and the screen has a higher resolution. If you don’t like Amazon’s interface, you can take a look at the very similar Lenovo Tab4 8 (review) with almost vanilla Android.
If you are fine with ordering tablets from China and don’t need warranties or support, you could also check out the FNF iFive Mini 4S (review). The screen and performance are much better as well.
- Very inexpensive
- Good display
- Decent build quality
- Almost vanilla Android 7.0 Nougat
- Good battery life
- Way too slow – even for its price
- Major software updates unlikely
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